Every local TV marketing manager, director, or creative services director, can relate to Danielle Ray’s situation. She is a first-time CSD for Nexstar’s NBC affiliate and KLRT, the Fox affiliate in Little Rock, Ark., just a few months into the job. Read on and compare what you learned to what she’s discovering. And if you’re […]
Every local TV marketing manager, director, or creative services director, can relate to Danielle Ray’s situation.
She is a first-time CSD for Nexstar’s NBC affiliate and KLRT, the Fox affiliate in Little Rock, Ark., just a few months into the job.
Read on and compare what you learned to what she’s discovering.
And if you’re a writer/producer/editor on the staff of the marketing/promotion department at a TV station who wants to be the boss, this is for you, too.
Obviously, being the marketing director requires a different mindset than being a staff member.
You go from being mentored to being the mentor. You go from meeting deadlines to assigning them. You go from handling one or two projects to balancing every project. You go from being wildly creative to being consistently creative. You go from making spots to making marketing and branding.
You’re no longer one of the gang, you’re the leader of the gang.
The general manager expects you to have answers. If he sees a spot on the air that he has an issue with, he’s not going to call the writer/producer who created it, he’s going to call you.
The level of expectation goes up significantly from the general manager, news director and sales manager: better ratings, deeper relationships, higher satisfaction.
Before becoming the CSD in Little Rock, Ray spent five years as a writer/producer/editor at KARK and at WNYW, the Fox O&O in New York .
What did she think when KARK’s general manager, Mike Vaughn, called her about the opening?
My first reaction? This was a position I’d been working toward and one I wanted. So it was pretty exciting to get that call from him.
And do you like it so far?
I am loving every minute of it. I’ve got a great team. What I hoped would happen is that it becomes a creative environment in our department. I’m really proud of the work our team’s done so far. It’s a lot, but I really love it.
What about staffing?
I have six in total, which sounds like a lot but when you’re talking five stations, and commercial production, it’s a good number but you always feel like you could use some extra bodies.
What changes have you made so far?
One thing I’ve changed is that while we have roles, everybody does take part in everything. So while two are dedicated to creating commercials, now one of them is working on a sweeps spot. They enjoy that because it changes up the day to day.
You had to hire a staff member, how did that go?
I placed ads everywhere. We had some good candidates locally. But in the end, I hired the assistant chief photographer from a station in Sacramento who had worked here for 10 years as a news photog. She fit in wonderfully. She has a really strong rapport with the news department so that’s important also.
What did you want to establish immediately as the manager?
Focus on creative and innovative. My mission statement to the team is we are all artists, being creative, we ought to be making good art, so I really focused on the artistic, creative aspect of what we do.
I get that, but the station is looking for results — ratings increase, increased business for your sales clients — how do you achieve both?
Take a second look at what we’re doing. Is it going to stand out? One example is a PSA we created. We brainstormed some ideas and we came up with one that’s very outside the box. You’re not sure the client will like it or cringe, but this spot stood out and that’s what makes it effective. The client loved it. So we kind of locked the client in, we do good work and they want to come back.
Describe your management style.
That depends on the producer. It’s case-by-case basis. Some are better if I’m hands off, some are better if I’m hands on.
We get together once a week and then I have one-on-ones with each producer at least once a week. They have my undivided attention. We use that time to talk about their on-going projects, but also to talk about what’s going on in their world. And how I can better help them to accomplish the goals, I think the one-on-ones have been really helpful.
Managing people is lot more challenging than it seems. I have more respect now for managers I’ve had in the past than I ever had before.
Managing people, yes there’s a little bit of a learning curve there.
How about delegating and establishing deadlines?
Delegating has been a learning curve for me. As a producer, I worked really quickly, so my speed is not the speed of all of my producers. The deadlines took a little work. The one-on-ones have helped a lot with that, they can communicate with me, “I need two extra days, I can’t get this done in the deadline you gave me.”
How about judging their work?
Critique has to happen. Everything has to be approved. One thing that’s been a valuable asset is peer review. I’m rarely the only person looking at a spot, suggesting changes with a producer. It’s kind of a team environment.
But obviously there are times when I have to say this has to change. They may not like it, but there are times when I have to be the boss.
How do you decide what to go for to increase brand awareness and ratings?
I look at the competition and the promos they do and ours should not look the same.
Our mission is for our work to look different, for them to stand out.
And we can’t promise without delivering. So that’s something that the news director and I work on together.
How valuable has it been that you’ve worked your way up?
It’s served me really well. I cut my teeth writing topicals, that’s an intense position and it’s often the first position that you get in creative services. It’s intense in tease writing, shooting and editing. I learned a lot from doing topicals that sticks with me to this day.
Advice for someone thinking about becoming a creative services director?
Organization is key. Not every CSD has five stations to promote, so it’s critical I’m organized. Managing that many projects for that many stations, organization is important.
There’s a lot being thrown at you as a CSD. You have to have the confidence to know where your department stands, to lead your team and be confident in the decisions you have to make, which may not always be popular.
Keep your head down and work hard and focus on the work you’re doing every day because what you’re doing now is what might get you that position.
So work hard.